Aux Etats-Unis Spécialement, ‘Nous Sommes Charlie’
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The cry that is being heard around the world after the cowardly massacre of at least 12 innocent people at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is “Nous sommes tous Charlie.”
And, yes, people all over the world are Charlie Hebdo.
But in the United States that cry carries special sentiment and significance.
For not only will Americans never forget that most dastardly and cowardly attack on our own soil one bright September morning, but Americans will always remember the outpouring of grief and support by the French people when we were attacked and the fact that France is indeed our oldest ally.
So I believe that it is appropriate to say that “Aux Etats-Unis spécialement, nous sommes Charlie.”
And one can hear, see and feel this special bond in the media.
Here are partial quotes from some of the most poignant expressions of solidarity with “those who dared to think, speak, draw…”
Abby Zimet at Common Dreams:
…many thousands of citizens flood the streets declaring their right to free speech even when insolent, cartoonists have offered their own sorrowful, defiant tributes to the “exquisitely intolerable…visual mockery” for which their friends died, and which they see as the finest tool against murderous clowns…There is no longer either the time or room to hide, observers note. If you were not Charlie Hebdo yesterday it is time, today, that you are.
George Packer at The New Yorker:
The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.
Charbonnier and the cartoonists for Charlie Hebdo didn’t hold back on any religion or subject. Anyone could be a target of their pens, the idea of the magazine to point at power to make sure everyone was laid low through the notion that no idea was so precious that it couldn’t be made humble by humor. Men who cling to patriarchal pulpits will never understand this philosophy of freedom.
Ross Douthat at the New York Times:
If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more… But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed…
Howard Kurtz at Fox News:
The danger now is that journalists around the world will engage in self-censorship, that they will pull back on aggressive reporting and analysis of Islamic terrorism. For every potentially provocative article, headline or cartoon, some will ask themselves, is this worth the risk? Wouldn’t it be easier, safer, to let this one go?
And each time that happens, the gunmen who unleashed a hail of bullets in a Paris newspaper office will have won.
Ian Tuttle at National Review Online
The notion that Charlie Hebdo’s mockery, rather than the cold-blooded murder of its staff, ought to be the target of one’s moral censure is its own sort of insanity… As for those who would react violently — who would offend against the pact upholding free speech — they, and they alone, are responsible for their actions.
Will Leitcht at Bloomberg.com
Charlie Hebdo fought for — and its cartoonists and writers and editors and police protectors ultimately died for — the right to piss people off without regard of taste or civilized society or what you or anyone else thought of them. We all stand with them today. But will we stand with them tomorrow? Did Sony Pictures and those theater chains stand with them two weeks ago? Does Comedy Central, and the Met, stand with them now? We live in an open society—free, among other things, to be timid. It is encouraging to see the world embracing Charlie Hebdo’s principles of satire and aggressive engagement with extremists today. But I can’t help but fear this show’s gonna close by Saturday.
Ezra Klein at Vox:
But this isn’t about Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, any more than a rape is about what the victim is wearing, or a murder is about where the victim was walking.
What happened today, according to current reports, is that two men went on a killing spree. Their killing spree, like most killing sprees, will have some thin rationale. Even the worst villains believe themselves to be heroes.
But in truth, it was unprovoked slaughter. The fault lies with no one but them and their accomplices. Their crime isn’t explained by cartoons or religion. Plenty of people read Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons and managed to avoid responding with mass murder. Plenty of people follow all sorts of religions and somehow get through the day without racking up a body count. The answers to what happened today won’t be found in Charlie Hebdo’s pages. They can only be found in the murderers’ sick minds.
Don’t allow extremists to set the terms of the conversation…we shouldn’t buy into the bullshit narrative of a few madmen that their murders were a response to some cartoons…
Allowing extremists to set the limits of conversation validates and entrenches the extremists’ premises…
These murders can’t be explained by a close read of an editorial product, and they needn’t be condemned on free speech grounds. They can only be explained by the madness of the perpetrators, who did something horrible and evil that almost no human beings anywhere ever do, and the condemnation doesn’t need to be any more complex than saying unprovoked mass slaughter is wrong.
This is a tragedy. It is a crime. It is not a statement, or a controversy.
James Poniewozik at Time.com:
Maybe you would never have read Charlie Hebdo or seen The Interview. Maybe you think mocking beloved religious figures, or fictionally blowing up the head of a living world leader, is in poor taste. That’s fine; decent people can lawfully criticize speech and still hate it being attacked unlawfully.
But if you care about freedom, you don’t always have the luxury of defending monumental art. If speech rights only protected polite comments that everyone could agree with, we wouldn’t need them.
And no matter who you are or what you like, these attacks are also attacks on you.
Terrorism, by definition, is never just aimed at its direct victims. The slaughter in Paris was aimed at every news organization that now has to decide whether to show the cartoons. It’s aimed at anyone who reports the next story like this. The Sony hack was aimed at anyone considering another movie that might offend radicals. (Already, one thriller about North Korea has been cancelled in advance.) It’s all aimed at any media corporation that looks at the headlines of shootings and hacking, thinks of the danger, however remote—not to mention the potential legal liability—and decides, you know what, not worth the trouble.
And it works. That’s not the inspiring, uplifting thing I want to say right now. But unless all of us reject the kowtowing and the playing-it-safe, it absolutely has worked and will work again.
The killers in Paris may have been lashing out at cartoons you never saw and would never have wanted to. But the same attack was also against something you would be interested in. You just may never know it, because you’ll never get to see it.